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Parents need to let teens feel accepted

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

October 24, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

What is it about the teen years that seems to stay with us no matter what age we reach?

Those long-ago years of self-discovery, promise, wonder and hope can be recalled in an instant with striking clarity.

The teen years never seem far removed - until a reunion notice comes in the mail. That's when we're reminded how "mature" we really are. This year marks my 25th year since high school graduation. That is so hard to believe. How can it be that 25 years have passed since the Class of 1983 walked across the stage and were handed our sheepskins?

In the bustle of college classes, career goals, family foundations, home building, where did those oh-so-carefree days go? If we had only known then what we know now.

When we were going through those days, we thought they were anything but carefree. I try to remember that now as I work with teenagers. Sometimes they can't see beyond their current problems.

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They are so much like we were back then.

Oh, some things have changed. They live in a different world than the one we knew. They've grown up with laptops, cell phones, iPods, e-mail and text messaging.

We had portable cassette players, which we fondly called boom boxes. Most of us also had a Walkman so our music could travel with us.

Staying connected has always been vital to teens.

They especially want to connect with each other. Conversation is all-important, and it must be distinct so as to separate their peer group from older or younger ones.

We used to say, "as if," when we meant, "I'd rather not." This often was used in regard to male-female relationships. (Teen one: "I think you should go out with him." Teen two: "As if.")

I hear today's teens repeatedly say, "That's awkward," when referring to embarrassing situations that they'd rather avoid - especially in reference to members of the opposite sex. (Teen one: "She's going to take the seat beside you." Teen two: "That's awkward.")

I have no problem with them using the word awkward, I just wish they would spell it correctly in their English papers .... There are two w's in the word, and the first one is not optional ... you know, like, for sure. (Aren't we all glad the Valley Girl talk remained in the '80s?)

One interesting thing I've noticed is that when teens aren't talking about current fads or other teens, they talk about their parents.

My husband and I were at a restaurant last Friday night, and there were four teenage girls at the table closest to us. Initially, I was slightly disappointed. I had listened to endless prattle all day long. All I wanted was a quiet, relaxing evening with my husband.

We ordered and quietly shared stories about our days. I began hearing snippets of the conversation from the next table. Believe me, I wasn't trying to eavesdrop. Teens tend to talk loudly because they want to be noticed.

The girls were talking about their fathers. One girl said her father doesn't care what she eats. Another one said her father will suggest from time to time that she needs "to tone." A third said her father's comments go from one extreme to another. Some days he doesn't have a problem with what she eats. Other days she thinks he's watching every bite.

As they were talking, it was obvious that they cared about their fathers' opinions.

Not only are teens doing a lot of talking. They're also listening quite intently.

They need to hear that the adults in their lives think they're OK.

We can give them that message because we've been where they are.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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